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A Reflection on Reflections

Published: 9/9/2014
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Editor's Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and a horse gal since age six. She teaches at Bay Harbor Equestrian Center in Michigan, riding English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, and many others.

Read more about Amy here.

Read more Journals & Journeys here

By Amy Skinner

Horses Reflecting Feel and Expectation

Working in a boarding and training barn, it's been interesting to see the same horse respond differently to different people.
I've noticed the horse meets the expectations of the handler, both in positive and negative ways. I've turned a perfectly calm horse over to an owner or groom and watched him turn into a monster:


It can be a challenge to prepare my horses for the types of things they'll encounter in their lives, because their reaction sometimes has little to do with the horse and its training. It has more to do with how they are handled and the feel and expectation they are provided.

Much of the time it isn't the horse that needs training, but the person handling it.

When you know a horse has a certain “issue,” do you approach it from a place of bias?

Approaching the horse with timidity, intent to dominate, or with tension reinforces the problem or may create one where one didn’t exist. Some people's energy can be so off-putting to the horse that it does everything in its power to escape it to preserve itself, which is interpreted by the person as “misbehavior.”

If people could learn to read the horse's behavior as a reflection of what they put out, they could surely find the difference between when the horse is reflecting what is in them, and when it truly is a “training issue.”

Horses are extremely intuitive and emotionally aware. They respond to the feel provided, in the way it was provided. They reflect it back onto the human, sometimes in wonderful ways, and sometimes in very unfortunate ways.

They are not programmable like machines. So training does not necessarily always translate from one person to the other. Read another perspective on Feel.

You may pay thousands for training, month after month, but may find that it does not translate back to you. It's not about having everything be perfect either, as I've found horses to be very forgiving of mistakes.

Until the handler or rider can be humbled enough to stay in the moment and operate from where the horse is and in the way he needs, that horse may return some unexpected or undesirable behaviors.  If you can learn to read the horse's behavior as a reflection of its feel and intent, then you could surely find the difference between when the horse is reflecting what is in it, and when the issue is really a training problem.

If you really want that training to “stick,” take a good look in the mirror. Is it the horse's problem, or yours?

Read about one woman's journey to 'Feel'
Read about Feel on BestHorsePractices

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9/10/2014 Sigrid Hansen
nicely spoken....and as also do the people around us. I love Amy's insights.

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." - Winston Churchill